Book Review: Thuds Underneath, by Brent Kininmont

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cv_thuds_underneathLike a giant striding across continents, Brent Kininmont covers a lot of ground in his first poetry collection, Thuds Underneath. His language jumps from place to place, moment to moment, separated yet connected. It is an exploration of New Zealand and of Japan, and the distance in between. Kininmont looks into the past, to the ancient Greeks and back into Japanese history, flying broadly over the landscape observing the world from above. But he also settles himself in the community, with his family. Landscapes and history sit beside the personal and emotional, contrasting harmoniously together to create an enjoyable experience for the reader.

The poetry begins with an airplane, getting ready for take-off, containing the collection title, I am grateful for thuds / underneath, / where someone is stacking / all those theories about ourselves / and what we need to rise. These thuds, this rising, are the thoughts that continue to flow through the poetry, whether it’s the flight of Mathias Rust or a child dirtying drying laundry, and these two positions shift between themselves. But they are not exclusive, they are not two worlds kept apart, but rather two worlds kept in constant conversation with each other: A spot in my eyes. If not for the pilot / interrupting the audio, I would’ve / missed it.

The flights move into roads across the land, and the landscape moves closer. In ‘The Labours’ we see someone racing over the land: he’s flying back every evening / on a ten speed. / Down the straight from / the roundabout after / his shift, he risks / signals. But there is stillness as well, pauses in the poetry filled with movements. It carries her back to the start at the end / of her gangway, to her father not budging, / maybe hoping the weather would change / her mind.

These images arrest the reading, lingering as we continue to move forward. It is a powerful juxtaposition, earth and sky, movement and pause. The poetry moves between the two with graceful effort, flowing from one moment to the next beautifully. And each opposite points towards its other: He drove me up to the peak / to empty our heads of the cost of living / below there.

In the final stretch of the collection, Kininmont turns to Japan and the sweeping landscapes of his new home. In ‘Divine Wind,’ he dives into the history of the attempted Mongol invasions and the Gobi Desert, in ‘Pictures from the Floating World’ he writes about The Great Wave, one of the most well-known Japanese woodblock prints. But eventually he turns to a more personal writing, The other / thirty-five views of Mount Fuji tell / the same story: an old god offering / a bearing. He writes about a name’s meaning, about ballet lessons, and about his own writing in ‘Speech Balloons.’

These personal moments help to give pause to the writing, the vast landscapes giving way to the small intimate experiences. Thuds Underneath spaces itself out well, its opposites working together to create an engaging first collection.

Reviews by Matthias Metzler

Thuds Underneath
by Brent Kininmont
Published by Victoria University Press
ISBN  9781776560455

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